map magazine issue #139

Page 19

local dreamer


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And I just started imagining this owl in all these different places – in mailboxes and flower pots, and somehow I saw him in a teacup and that’s when I started thinking about making more of a statement about where we expect this wildlife to go if we keep destroying habitat … They either have to go somewhere or they’re not going to survive.” Renee and Eric moved to Australia in 2007, realising another long-held dream to live in a foreign country. Their son was born in 2009. These two happy milestones also rate as Renee’s greatest challenges – living apart from their loving family is tough, and becoming a mum was a challenge too. “Like all new mums I had all those unrealistic expectations about how I would work when the baby was napping and I would get so much done. And that was a reality shock for me. And then obviously the breast cancer was a huge challenge,” Renee shares. “That’s been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with. The treatment for breast cancer was horrific.” Asked how she remained motivated, Renee credits their incredible support network of friends and family. “They were

so encouraging and helpful and supportive. I get kind of choked up thinking about it,” she confesses. As Renee neared the end of her treatment, her loved ones encouraged her to make art again. “But there were times when I was so sick that I couldn’t imagine having extra energy to do anything besides just sit there.” Fortunately, art proved the perfect therapy. “I think the wombat book was really what pulled me out of all of that,” Renee explains, referring to her award-winning manuscript. “I knew the deadline was coming up for that conference and I was determined to enter my work … I clung to it and I worked when I didn’t feel well and I forced myself to keep going and that helped because by the time that was done I felt like, wow, I can start doing stuff again.” Now whenever Renee faces an uphill battle, whether with her health or a tricky drawing, she boosts herself with wise words. “I usually try to tell myself I can do whatever it is … I think it’s more stubbornness than anything. I try to have faith in myself and get through whatever I have to do.”

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